Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills can be very helpful to people who struggle with coping in a healthy manner. This article is the first in a series for DBT skills to enhance a training group to help adult females who struggle with impulsive and/or destructive decisions. This will address a brief overview of DBT, who may benefit from learning DBT skills, how DBT skills can be helpful, and highlight the four primary DBT skills.
Overview of DBT
DBT was created by Marsha Linehan, Ph.D. in the early 1990’s to treat people diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). DBT can be helpful in managing overwhelming emotions. What DBT does is teaches critically important skills which help decrease emotional waves and help maintain balance when overwhelmed by emotions. So for people who have very intense emotions, have chronic suicidal ideations, or who were raised in profoundly invalidating environments, DBT can aid in creating a climate of unconditional or radical acceptance to foster a more therapeutic relationship between client and counselor. DBT is geared towards promoting awareness that some feelings and behaviors are maladaptive and assisting the person/client into discovery of more healthy alternatives. It combines both individual therapy and group therapy to teach skills, provide practice on emotional regulation and behavior in social settings, and discussion of issues which arise weekly in which to utilize the learned skills. The DBT skills are categorized into four modules: Distress Tolerance, Mindfulness, Emotional Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness.
Who and How DBT Helps
Although DBT was created to treat BPD, it has been proven effective for anyone who may struggle coping in health manners. It can be assistive with bipolar disorders, anxiety, depression, spectrum mood disorders, self-injurious behaviors, sexual abuse survivors, and even chemical dependency. It can be taught and utilized by most age groups, women, and men. DBT helps by teaching skills and exercises to help affect regulation. Affect is the way in which a person behaviorally expresses their feelings and regulation is the processes we use to manage the emotions and expressions to achieve one’s goals.
Basic Descriptions of the Primary DBT Skills
The DBT skills are broken down into four areas:
- Distress Tolerance - Distress tolerance instructs and teaches better coping skills of painful events by increasing resiliency and teaching new ways to soften effects of upsetting circumstances. Through learning DBT skills people can discover new ways to cope with crises and ongoing difficulties in positive ways.
- Mindfulness - Mindfulness is raising awareness of experiences in order to choose actions intentionally. Being mindful means being more grounded in the present moment, placing less focus on painful experiences from the past, and not focusing on frightening possibilities of the future. This is also helpful in overcoming habitual, negative judgments about self and others.
- Emotional Regulation - The module on emotional regulation assists people in clearly recognizing feelings and decrease feelings of being overwhelmed. The goal is to modulate feelings without behaving in reactive, destructive ways.
- Interpersonal Effectiveness - Interpersonal effectiveness instructs people on ways to enhance relationships and treating others with respect. It teaches tools to help better express beliefs and needs, while giving knowledge on how to negotiate solutions to problems. It is also helpful in setting limits.
DBT can be helpful for many people that struggle with intense emotions and those who cope in unhealthy manners. Through individual therapy and group therapy with a focus on teaching DBT skills, people can learn skills to better manage their lives in more meaningful and healthy approaches.